Saturday, November 11, 2017, 8:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 John 2 (Quoting select vv. NASB).
We Know Him (vv. 1-6)
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
I think it would be good if we could reverse the order of these two paragraphs, and here is the reason why: This chapter begins by addressing those who are true followers of Jesus Christ as “My little children,” but it is the second paragraph which tells us how we know if we truly are in Christ, i.e. if we are his “little children,” so I am going to begin there, and then I will go back to the first paragraph. So, with that said…
There are many people today who, if asked, will say they are Christians. For some of them it will be because they were brought up in the Christian religion, or they grew up attending Christian church services, or their parents claimed Christianity as their religion. Or, it could be because they were baptized in a Christian church or are members of a local institutional church. They will, as well, if asked, say that they believe in Jesus Christ. And, for some of them, it will be because they prayed “a sinner’s prayer” to receive Christ as Savior, which is usually a man-made prayer which they repeat after someone else, after which they are congratulated for now being part of God’s family and for having secured their eternal destiny in heaven.
So, what is wrong with this picture? It is that their foundation for their belief in Jesus is based in man and not in God, and not in God’s holy Word. Yes, the Bible does talk about “receiving” Jesus Christ, but there is much more to it than just repeating words after someone else. Receiving is the opposite of rejecting, so it has to do with accepting Jesus, but not just intellectually or emotionally, or in order to escape hell, and so we go to heaven when we die.
When we receive Jesus as Lord and as Savior of our lives, we die with Christ to sin and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24; Gal. 2:20). The Holy Spirit of God transforms us in heart and mind away from living for sin and self to following Jesus Christ in obedience and in surrender to his will. It isn’t JUST that we are forgiven our sins, but that we are delivered out of bondage (addiction) to sin, and we are born anew of the Spirit of God to new lives in Christ Jesus, to be lived to his righteousness. This is what it means to be a Christian and to believe in Jesus as our Savior.
It means that we are no longer under the control of sin or Satan, but that we are now servants of Christ’s righteousness. It means, too, that we no longer walk (in lifestyle) according to the flesh – to the ways of this sinful world – but we now walk (conduct our lives) according to the Spirit of God. This is not to say, nonetheless, as vv. 1-2 point out, that we will never sin again, but it is saying that sin should no longer be our practice. Thus, we know that we have come to know Christ if our walk (our lifestyle) has changed from following after the flesh to following after the Spirit, and if we are daily, by the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh. Yet, if we are still holding on to our old lives of sin, then we will die in our sins (Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 8).
So, it isn’t like we have a hammer hanging over our heads every time we do sin, condemning us to hell. NO, if we are truly in Christ, we are no longer under condemnation, because Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins has set us free. Jesus is, thus, our defense to God on our behalf. So, we can rest in Christ, assured of our salvation. But, we just have to make sure, first, that truly we are in Christ, according to what the Word of God teaches, and not according to what some people may tell us. For, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, NOT just so we can escape hell and have the promise of heaven when we leave this earth.
Love One Another (vv. 7-11)
Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
I wish the English translators could have come up with a better word for agape love other than just “love,” because the word “love” in English can mean so many things, and is often interpreted more as human love than as divine love. Because of this, often times passages of scripture, such as this, get misinterpreted and even twisted, depending upon certain human beings’ ideas of what they define as “love,” and as “hate.” Some people define love as tolerance (lenience, acceptance) of all people’s religions and of all chosen lifestyles, and thus they define hate as intolerance. So, for them, someone who hates is someone who judges others’ beliefs or lifestyles. For them, love would never confront anyone with sin or call for people to repent of their sin.
But, in context, to love is to love as God loves, which means to prefer what God prefers, which is what is pure, righteous, holy, honest, decent, moral and just. Agape love is not tolerant of sin nor is it tolerant of anything opposed to God and to his Word. Because it loves as God loves, it will not only express itself in kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and compassion, but it will also speak the truth in love to those who are dead in their sins, so that they can come alive to God in Christ Jesus, and be saved from their sins. Thus, to hate someone would not only include being mean, abusive, or to take advantage of someone, but it would be to willfully withhold the truth from them when we can tell them the truth, which could save their lives for eternity, just because WE don’t want to be rejected, which is, thus, selfish.
Don’t Love World (vv. 15-17)
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
So, we must (agape) love God, and we show we love him by doing what he says for us to do. And, we must (agape) love other people, by loving them as Jesus loved (and loves) us, according to what the Bible teaches. BUT, we are NOT to (agape) love the world, but not meaning the people of the world, but rather implying that we should not love its morals, values, philosophies, and sinful practices, etc. We are not, thus, to prefer what the world (the ungodly) prefers. We are not to embrace, too, what the unrighteous embrace (accept, hold on to). We are not to choose to do what we know is wrong while we reject what is right. And, we are not to adopt into our lives the way in which the ungodly think, believe, value, speak or behave.
Instead, we are to be holy, set apart for God and his service, and separate (unlike, different) from the world because we are being conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. This means that we should not be entertaining ourselves daily with what the world (the ungodly) do, think, say and believe, either. We may be good people, we think, because we don’t commit adultery, murder, steal, cheat, etc. But, if daily we sit and watch others do these things, we are participating with them in their unrighteousness, and thus we are giving approval to their deeds because we are allowing ourselves to be entertained by them. Plus, we are taking all this filth daily into our minds, and as they saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
So, in conclusion, let us remember that, in the first part of this passage of scripture, it said that we know that we have come to know God if we keep (abide by, follow, obey) his commands (his instructions to us in his Word). It also said that knowing God means that we (agape) love other human beings, and that we do not hate other people. And, it says that if we (agape) love the world, then God’s love is not in us. Now, again, this comes down to lifestyle, for the word translated as “love” is literally “loving,” which is present tense and it is active. So, if truly we are in Christ, by faith in him, and if we truly (agape) love (are loving) him, then we are not going to actively be following after the ways of this world. Instead, our lives will be committed to doing the will of God, and we will then live forever with God.
My Jesus, I Love Thee
William R. Featherstone / Adoniram J. Gordon
My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
For thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say, when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.
In mansions of glory and endless delight;
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.